Sunscreen: No more excuses

Women know they should wear sunscreen every day of the year, but only 31% do, according to a recent poll. And many of those who skip SPF feel guilty about it-so much so that 31% admit they've fibbed about putting on sunscreen because they're embarrassed about their bad habit. So what gives? If we all know that sunscreen helps protect our skin and prevent signs of ageing such as spots and wrinkles, why aren't more of us using it? To find out, Prevention asked dermatologists to share some of the most common excuses women give for going outdoors unprotected. Read on and you'll discover there's really no good reason to skimp on sunscreen-you'll be healthier (and younger looking!) if you use it.

The chemicals in sunscreen are probably more dangerous than sun exposure"

Reality check: Sunscreens have gotten some bad press lately, including claims that they contain cancercausing ingredients. But a recently published review of the studies on which these claims are based should ease fears. "Many of the safety concerns are not well founded-they're based on petridish or animal data that doesn't relate to humans," says Steven Wang, MD, director of dermatologic surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, and co-author of the review. For example, in one study, mice fed a whopping dose of oxybenzone, a UV-light absorber commonly found in sunscreens, exhibited oestrogenic effects, which researchers believe could cause cancer cells to grow more rapidly. But by Wang's calculations, it would take more than 250 years for someone who uses sunscreen daily to be exposed to the amount of oxybenzone used in the study. Still worried? Use a natural sunscreen like Kama Ayurveda Sunscreen which is enriched with natural ingredients like aloe vera, olive oil and pure essential oils of nutmeg, ginger and lime. It is also free of parabens, artificial fragrances or colours, mineral oils and petroleum-based ingredients. Also try Aroma Magic Cucumber Sunscreen with extracts of cucumber, green tea and jojoba oil, cooling the skin while offering sun protection.

"I don't get a lot of sun"Reality check: "You don't have to be on the beach to soak up rays. Most people rack up 14 hours of casual UV exposure per week. And in one study, short spurts of UVA light twice a week resulted in significant damage to the fibres that keep skin smooth and firm in just 12 weeks," says NYC dermatologist Arielle Kauvar, MD. "It is important to use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 to 50 all the time, indoors and outdoors, even on cloudy days. Clouds don't block UV rays that cause sun tan, so you can still get dark. Just remember, UV rays can be reflected off water, sand, snow, glass and concrete. So you can even get a tan even in the shade," says Mumbai-based dermatologist Dr Apratim Goel. Use a sunscreen that gives all-round protection like L'Oreal UV Perfect with Longlasting UVA/UVB Protector.

"It's a drag to re-apply sunscreen"

Reality check: Five minutes every two hours-that's all it takes to apply the two tablespoons of sunscreen recommended for protection when you're outdoors for extended periods. "Most sunscreens these days come in the form of tubes which are easy to carry in your handbag. Just make sure you don't apply too much make-up during the day. This makes re-applying sunscreen difficult," says Mumbai-based cosmetologist Dr Rohini Wadhwani.

"I haven't gotten burnt yet"

Reality check: "This is the skin equivalent of 'I've never had a car wreck, so I don't need a seat belt,'" says Cambridge, MA, derm Ranella Hirsch, MD. Though a cavalier attitude towards sunscreen may not be a big deal when you're young, skin loses its ability to produce melanin effectively as you get older, and that may actually make you more likely to burn. The fact is, sun damage- including wrinkles and loss of firmness- occurs whether or not you're seeing red. "While Indian skin types may well never manifest a proper sun burn, uneven tanning leading to patchy pigmentation is common. So, it is important to reach for that sunscreen lotion every day. If you feel too sweaty, opt for a sunscreen in gel form," says Mumbai-based dermatologist Dr Aparna Santhanam. And that's a good reason to use Lotus Sunscreen Safe Oil-Free Sun Gel, made with extracts of babchi seed, sea weed, aloe and other aquatic plants, which is ideal for oily skin.

"Sunscreen is too expensive"

Reality check: As long as you pick one that clearly states it blocks both UVA and UVB rays, there's no need to break the bank when buying. "Research doesn't show any relationship between price and protection," reports Wang. Try Lakme Sun Expert Cucumber & Lemongrass Fairness Sunscreen Body Lotion that offers broad spectrum protection, Rs 150.

"Applying sunscreen leaves a white film on my face"

Reality check: "The reason for the chalky look is the higher concentration of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide in the sunscreen you are using," says Goel. But instead of doing away with sunscreens altogether, why not look for one that works for you? Most people benefit from sunscreens with sun protection factor (SPF) numbers of 15 or more. There are dozens of brands in the market today. "Normal to dry skin may benefit from lotion formulations while those with oily and combination skins can use gel formulations. Consult a dermatologist to get the most appropriate and aesthetic sunscreen for your skin type," says Santhanam. Just shop around for one with an SPF of 15 or higher. Check for broad spectrum agents including benzophenones (oxybenzone), cinnamates (octylmethyl cinnamate and cinoxate), sulisobenzone, salicylates, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide and avobenzone in moderate proportions on the labels. "If you are still not sure, consult your dermatologist for the most appropriate and aesthetic sunscreen for your skin type," Santhanam adds. Try: Vichy Laboratories Capital Soleil Sunscreen with SPF 50+ which comes with a non-greasy texture and leaves no white residue.

"I use a day cream with SPF, so I don't need a sunscreen"

Reality check: If you are skipping using a sunscreen because your day cream has an SPF, you are unwittingly exposing your skin to harmful broad-spectrum UV rays, says Wadhwani. A new study recently published in the Archives of Dermatology reported that many top selling day creams that claim to offer protection from harmful UVA rays don't contain the necessary ingredients. Even worse, if they do, they are usually not present in sufficient quantities to afford any real protection. The study specifically looked for UVA filters such as avobenzone, octocrylene, ecamsule (also known as Mexoryl SA) and zinc oxide in 29 of the best-selling day creams in the US. The data was revealing: six of the 29 creams didn't contain any active ingredients to provide UVA protection. Just keep that in mind before doing away with your daily sunscreen. Use a fullyloaded sunscreen. Try: Neutrogena Ultrasheer SPF 50+ Sunblock with Helioplex that comes with PA+++ formulation for superior UVB as well as UVA protection. The micronised silica powder also absorbs excess sunscreen oils, leaving skin feeling soft and non-greasy or shiny.

Burn notice:

POP AN ASPIRIN immediately to help with the pain and decrease inflammation so your skin won't get as red.

DRINK 8 GLASSES of water a day over the next 48 hours. Water cools you from the inside out and helps stave off dehydration (you lose moisture through burnt skin).

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